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Arsonists Attack Crete Synagogue Second Time in Two Weeks

Arsonists have attacked Crete’s only synagogue for the second time in less than two weeks, destroying the wooden roof and holy books.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 1/18/2010, 8:14 PM / Last Update: 1/18/2010, 8:10 PM

Israel news photo

Arsonists have attacked the only synagogue on the Greek island of Crete for the second time in less than two weeks, destroying the wooden roof, four computers, tapes of Jewish music and burning holy books. The first attack occurred two weeks ago and destroyed 30 antique Turkish carpets and a large library.

The synagogue, named Etz Chaim, underwent a four-year restoration project that was completed in 1999. It had been desecrated following the Nazi regime that decimated the local Jewish community in 1944. The synagogue dates back to the 15th century and was a functioning museum until the arson attacks. A small number of Jews, often joined by Christians and even some Muslims, attended Sabbath and festival prayers there.

During the first arson, the vandals threw a bar of soap at the outer wall of the building, symbolizing the ant-Semitic taunt that Nazis would make soap out of Jewish corpses.

Prayers continued after the initial arson attack, which did not ruin the synagogue itself, and volunteers immediately cleaned up the building after the fire. However, the latest fire caused more extensive damage.

The American Jewish Congress said, "To target such a house of worship not once, but twice, within days of each other requires a swift public response from all in Greece who believe in the principles of religious freedom and mutual respect.

"We count on Greek Prime Minister Papandreou and his government to do everything possible to apprehend the arsonists and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. The protection of all Jewish institutions in Greece must become a still higher priority in light of recent events.”